Roger Clemens Returning to Baseball, Sugar Land Skeeters Exec Insists Clemens’ Signing is not a Publicity Stunt

August 20, 2012 – 11:30 pm by Eric Schmoldt

Just about everything surrounding Roger Clemens’ signing with the independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters on Monday seems to add up it all being a publicity stunt. The 50-year-old hasn’t pitched professionally since 2007 and, of course, his name has been associated with courtrooms and controversy, not pitching mounds, in recent memory. Furthermore, it sounds as if he’s coming back on what basically sounds like a start-by-start basis. All that aside, it’s quite remarkable that all signs point towards Clemens starting a game Saturday. What happens after that will sort itself out in due time.

Tal Smith, the Skeeters’ executive behind the signing, says the whole thing is not a publicity stunt, and that Clemens simply wants to show people he can still pitch. Smith says Saturday night games in Sugar Land typically sell out, so there’s no need to lure fans like that. But something still smells fishy here.

Tal Smith joined KILT in Houston with Josh Innes and Rich Lord to discuss the team signing Roger Clemens, who initially initiated the discussions, if Clemens is trying to return to MLB, if he thinks he could make it back to the majors, Clemens’ recent court case and the plan for the team and Clemens moving forward.

Were you in on bringing Clemens on board?:

“Yeah, this is something that’s been in the discussion stages for some time. You’ve got to remember that Roger and Gary Gaetti — Gary’s the manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters and Gary was obviously a very fine Major League player for many years primarily in Minnesota — but was a Major League coach on the Astros club in 2004 and 2005 when Rogers was having his great pitching performances with the club. So their relationship goes way back and they stay in touch. Roger continues to throw, even though he hasn’t pitched professionally since 2007. … He is in incredible condition.”

Who initiated contact, Roger or the Skeeters?:

“As I said, basically this is something Roger and Gary Gaetti have been discussing for some time. It was brought to our attention and obviously it’s Roger’s call. … Contrary to your sports wrap-up a minute ago, this is not a publicity stunt. The Skeeters have drawn about 500,000 for this year and generally sell out for Saturday nights anyway. This is not a publicity stunt; this is something that Roger wanted to do. He wanted to come out and demonstrate to us that he was capable of pitching and wanted to pitch. That being the case, we were happy to accommodate him.”

Is it your understanding that it would be his goal to return to MLB?:

“That’s up to Roger. All we’re doing is accommodating his desire to pitch and to prove to people what he can do. That’s kind of the purpose for the Skeeters and the Atlantic League. Most of the players in this league are players that have had Double A, Triple A and, in many cases, Major League experience. … This is a league for players that have done well in their professional careers and desire to continue pitching. In Roger’s case, he’s doing it a little bit later.”

In seeing his workout, does it look like he could make it back to the Major League level?:

“I certainly wouldn’t discount it or bet against it. The competitiveness is off the charts. I think his command is very good. His stuff is very good. I’ve never been a big believer in measuring everything by velocity. You don’t get people out with a radar gun, you get people out by making pitches to the proper location, changing speed and changing sequence. I think he’s a master of that.”

Were there any reservations about the baggage he brings with him given his recent court case?:

“No, none. He has never tested positively in any drug test and he was acquitted of all the charges. The Atlantic League has the same drug policy that is prevalent throughout minor league baseball. The league administers the program. Players are subject to random testing.”

Would he travel with you guys or will he only pitch at home?:

“Right now we’re taking it one game at a time. He’ll start Saturday and he’ll build from there. I expect Saturday to be positive and after that we’ll sit down and designate the next one. I don’t think, initially, that this is going to be a set five-day rotation like you might normally find for a couple of reasons. Even though he’s in excellent condition, I don’t know that that requires or necessitates that he pitch in a five-day rotation. … And he has a lot of commitments. I know he can pitch on Saturday and I know he can pitch on certain dates after that and we’ll just have to see what works out best.”

Listen to Tal Smith on KILT in Houston here

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